Long Exposure Part 3 – Bartending at Handlebar

In my ongoing experimentation with long exposure photography and attaching LEDs to people “doing their thing” comes bartending. The owner of Handlebar, Bruce, is a nice guy and always personable and fun. The last time I attended a CreateinTO (monthly meeting discussing creative technology), I asked if he’d be into being the subject of my next shoot. After showing him some photos from the other two shoots; Tae Kwon Do and Bollywood, he agreed.

Every shoot presents new opportunities to learn from the last and this was no different. Kim and I discovered that with excess motion, it’s possible for the leads on the LEDs to touch, thereby shorting themselves out. With 3V, there’s not real danger, but it can make for a flickering light. Which isn’t too helpful when you want fluid lines. So hot glue to the rescue!

Working in a bar had its own challenges. For instance, finding a good spot to place the tripod and camera. With the camera above bar-level, I was struck by how much ambient light affected my shots. Candles, small pendants, sconces, and lamps dotted the bar. In a basic snapshot, it’s a lovely space. When you need to leave your shutter open? IT’S LIKE STARING INTO THE SUN!



Obviously that’s an exaggeration. But I wanted ambiance. It needed to feel like a dark, intimate bar. Bruce was game for whatever and took to turning out lights here and there. We ended up with a happy place for what I needed in terms of lighting.

Then we started shooting.



That’s when it dawned on me that although a bartender may be really active all night, the majority of their movements are “take order, fill order, place order” essentially turn one way and turn back. As evidenced above.

I also didn’t like my position so I moved to the other corner of the end of the bar.

That’s when Bruce got creative. He started just walking up and down the bar and waving his hands around. If he needed to explain, he’d point at the camera and say something along the lines of the “monthly meetup” and “creative technology”. Then he’d fill the order and get back to being groovy.

We were really getting somewhere now. While my goal was to capture a person doing a specific activity, I am open to evolution of my concept. And then finally, tired of the amount of ambient light there was, even with all the dimming and shutting off of lights, I asked if i could place the tripod on the floor behind the bar. This was it! With the camera below the bar, the LEDs worked great! I love the results of these last few shots.

I believe I’ll print the last shot to test for sale. Thanks, Bruce! You’re a champ!

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